It is indeed a great pleasure to address Bengal’s premier Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its 161st Annual General Meeting. Formed through a charter inked in 1833 and subsequently formalized in 1853, for well over one and half century – for 180 years to be precise – the Chamber has successfully promoted trade, commerce and industry in the state. It is the ‘door key’ to all such related developments not only within West Bengal but also in the North Eastern states. At the outset, I wish the Chamber all success in marching forward.
Since inception the Chamber’s relation with the State, pre and post-Independence, has always been cordial. The objectives of the State Government are in no way antithetical to the objectives of the Chamber. Neither do they work at cross purposes. The primary objective of the State Government is to revise the State’s economy through inclusive growth and investments, and this objective is shared by the Chamber.
I am happy to know that the Bengal Chamber does not solely focus on creating wealth and maximizing of profits for the industry. Rather it prefers mixing these concepts with creation of employment and alleviation of poverty focusing on skill and knowledge development. It leads to a robust gross capital formation that could act as a bulwark for the State’s economy. I am also told that the Chamber promotes the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility among its members. I applaud their initiative.
Friends, as you know, West Bengal is a predominantly agricultural state with almost 63% of land under different types of multi-layered cultivation as against the national average of 45%. It is a great asset for the State and provides employment to a large number of people. The State Government is also aware of the tremendous potential it has in the industries sector as a viable avenue to generate wealth for the masses and employment opportunities for its educated and skilled youth.
I am told that he State Government is suffering a massive revenue shortage due to various reasons. I am not going to dwell upon the same on this occasion. Suffice it to say that the State Government has inherited a legacy of debt. Who can salvage the State from this situation?
Obviously, a commitment to the purpose is required – the purpose, inter alia, being promoting industrial and commercial growth in the State, removing poverty and unemployment, ensuring capital growth and to add to, and assist in, the development of the State. We have to foresee the future. Business and industrialists being protective in nature, do require some security and assistance in matters relating to investments. It is the joint duty of all of us, including the government, to create an atmosphere to this effect. Not mere talks, but concrete steps are necessary. Your cooperation is needed in this direction.
The State Government is trying its best to showcase West Bengal’s all-round potential not only to the business community in the country, but also abroad and its efforts are paying off. The credit for this goes to the initiatives of the Chief Minister is holding pan-India industry meets. Two such meets have been held in North and Western India in New Delhi and Mumbai. In the State there were similar industry meets. Of late, her visit to Singapore has elicited fair amount of industry interest. I am sure the State Government will achieve success in garnering investments.
India and the world look upon West Bengal as a source of intellectual and moral powerhouse. West Bengal has a very rich tradition in the fields of science, art, culture, history, intellectuality and trade and commerce. It is a land that had produced national builders, icons and spiritual personalities of Indian history like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Rishi Aurobindo and scientists like Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose and many others. Their noble contributions have made West Bengal a ‘place unique’. I am really happy that West Bengal is a rare example of a state that has kept up to its real tradition of communal and caste harmony. West Bengal must also emerge as a leading State in terms of development and prosperity, and this can be achieved only through a balance between Agriculture and Industry on the one hand and concerted efforts of all stakeholders on the other.
The State Government, on its part, is trying sincerely to rejuvenate the State’s growth and put it on a comfortable growth path. I have faith in the potentials of the Chambers of Commerce and Industries and therefore I plead them to contribute to the development trajectory of the State Government. Let the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry be the Government’s strongest arm and preferred vehicle to put the State’s economy on track and usher in a new era of scientific, social, economic, industrial and development planning to make West Bengal the foremost prosperous State.
I wish all of you and the State Government all the success in efforts in this regard.